“No country will be spared the disruptive impact of what the future of work has in store for us.” That was a quote from Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minster, Jennifer Baptiste- Primus. The subject of technological advancements in labour has made its way into public discourse in recent years. There has been an intense debate on how technology will impact the future workforce. Some say advancements in labour technology will lead to global unemployment, but some argue that these advancements will only lead to more employment opportunities. This conversation can be broken up into three parts: the destruction of jobs, the creation of jobs and how the dynamic of jobs will inevitably change.
Current projection for changes in the workplace in the United States alone suggests that automation will move 22.7 million jobs to machines by 2025. There are many that fear for their job security with good reason. In a study by Oxford University, researchers have estimated that up to 47% of jobs in the United States could be performed by robots within the next two decades. Office support and administrative roles, transportation, labour and production occupations are thought to be jobs that are susceptible to computerization.
We seem to be entering the 4th industrial revolution and the one thing that is certain is that highly skilled and technology-savvy workers will benefit from this change, while low-skilled and non-technology savvy workers will more than likely not benefit. The question most people are asking is will the economic systems be able to absorb the consequences of accelerated technological advancements in labour or will these technological advancements lead to mass unemployment? Developed governments have been devoting time to answer this question, but forward thinking like this has not yet been adopted by most Caribbean countries. A large amount of the workforce in Caribbean countries is unskilled and routine, making them targets for automation. We are living in a world of accelerated technological advances and if our economies do not catch up, they will suffer.
On the other side of the argument, automation is also expected to create 13.6 million new jobs in the same time frame, almost all of them dedicated to the value of human decision making and intuition, including software design, support, training and engineering. Additionally, it is not the first time that technical job loss has generated concern. In the early 19th century the Luddite movement arose following the wide spread of new industrial machines. The Luddites were an organization of English textile workers who destroyed textile machinery as a form of protests. It turns out that the introduction of textile machinery did not lead to massive unemployment. History tends to repeat itself and mass technological transformations in labour in the past have not led to mass unemployment but has instead created many jobs. The impact of AI technology on business is projected to increase labour productivity by up to 40% and enable people to make more efficient use of their time.
Technology in the workplace has the potential to improve communication between employees and managers, managers and managers, and between employees. Technology makes communication easier, instantaneous and deliberate through emails, texts, calls and video conferences. Conversations no longer need to happen in the same room which makes it easier for international businesses. Problems of communication are no longer on the front burner for businesses which will increase ability to deal with other issues in the workplace, ultimately increasing productivity. Employers can also use work management tools that allow them to track the process of their team and automate follow ups. Thanks to technology speed, efficiency and productivity have increased dramatically and will continue to increase in the future.
While there is still uncertainty in how the future of work will be affected by the advances in technology, one thing is certain, it will change the nature of jobs. Physical presence is no longer a necessity in some jobs. With the help of conference calls, texts and emailing there is no longer a need to stay within local borders for skill. This can have a negative result as local workers may become second choice for employers because they have a wider and more international reach for skill.
This can be seen in many places in the Caribbean where many workers are being replaced with international skill. This could lead to unemployment and in extreme cases, economic crash, because a large percentage of the population is unemployed. The nature of jobs has also changed to being digital now. Where there are consumers, there is a market and there is definitely a large consumer base for the digital market. Consumers no longer need to leave their houses to go to the grocery when they can simply order what they need online and have it shipped to their doorstep. There is less demand for retail jobs now in developed countries because consumers would prefer the easy and quick operations of the online market.
While this could mean a loss of jobs for people in the retail sector it also means the opening for creation of new jobs and the demand for new skill sets. These increased demands for eCommerce businesses means an increase in self employment. In the non digital retail sector there is a need for multiple workers to dedicate their time and effort to different parts of the business but it is not like this in the digital market. In the digital market one could work by oneself and for oneself with the simple click of a button. Technology has changed the nature of jobs and expanded the possibilities of how and where people work.
In conclusion, the future of work to me means that technology will play a large part in where I work, how I work and even when I work. The future of work means expanding possibilities and a demand for new skill sets but it could also mean the loss of jobs for many if governments and citizens do not meet the required standards that will be needed in the future to keep up with our own rapidly developing technology. “If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” – Omar N. Bradley